Jun 20, 2019 (Euclid Infotech Ltd via COMTEX) -- Royal Mail is launching a commemorative postbox, special postmark and online gallery to mark the centenary of the first transatlantic airmail flight. The commemorative postbox is being unveiled on Harlington High Street, close to Heathrow Airport, the home of Royal Mails Worldwide Distribution Centre. The postmark is appearing on stamped mail from June 14 to June 15, while the online gallery marking the event can be found at https://www.royalmailgroup.com/en/insights-innovation/heritage/100-years-since-alcock-browns-first-ever-transatlantic-flight/ . On 14 June 1919, pioneering aviators Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten-Brown completed the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic, carrying with them hundreds of letters in a mail bag, the first transatlantic mail. The mailbag also contained a letter written by Alcock to his sister Elsie prior to the flight.
The aviators took off from Newfoundland, the nearest point in transatlantic terms to the British Isles, at around 1.45pm. They flew a modified First World War Vickers Vimy bomber. The flight to Ireland was beset with challenges including mechanical failures, heavy snow and blinding fog. The flyers wore electrically heated clothing, overalls, fur gloves and fur-lined helmets, but the battery failed soon into the journey. The team crash landed near Clifden in County Galway at 8:40 a.m. on 15 June 1919, after around sixteen hours' flying time. The average speed during the Atlantic crossing was around 120 miles per hour.
When incredulous locals were unable to believe that the pair had flown across the Atlantic in less than a day, Alcock handed them the sealed bag of mail as proof, all of it stamped in St Johns, Newfoundland the day before. News of their success quickly spread. Back in 1913, the Daily Mail, offered a prize for 10,000 - 1 million in todays money - to the aviator who shall first cross the Atlantic in an aeroplane in flight from any point in the United States of America, Canada or Newfoundland to any point in Great Britain or Ireland in 72 continuous hours. The prize was put up by Lord Northcliffe, the aviation-loving owner of the Daily Mail.
Alcock and Brown were feted as heroes on completion of their flight receiving the 10,000 reward from the Daily Mail, 2,000 guineas (2,100) from the Ardath Tobacco Company and 1,000 from Lawrence Phillips for being the first British subjects to fly the Atlantic Ocean. The then Secretary of State for Air, Winston Churchill, presented the men with the Daily Mail prize for the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by aeroplane. In his speech, Churchill hailed these exemplars of the audacity, the courage, the physical qualities of the old heroic bygone times. The two aviators were a week later awarded the honour of Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) by King George V at Windsor Castle.
Sadly John Alcock was killed during December 1919, whilst performing at the Paris Air show. Scottish born Brown was later employed by Metropolitan-Vickers, and by 1923 he was appointed as chief representative in the Swansea area. In 1969 Royal Mail produced stamps to immortalise Alcock and Brown. Royal Mail is proud to pay tribute to the first transatlantic airmail flight. The bravery of Alcock and Brown in pushing these boundaries will never be forgotten, and their legacy lives on in todays postal service, said David Gold, Director of Public Affairs & Policy at Royal Mail.